The Successful Buell Ownership Experience
The successful Buell ownership experience is, in my opinion, totally reliant on four critical components. One may be able to make up for deficiencies of another, but the absence of any one of these will not bode well for your Buelling.
1) A Cooperative and Buell Friendly Dealership
In my experience the Buell dealership network runs hot and cold. There are some dealers out there that will do everything they can to make you a happy Buellster. Unfortunately, there are many others that once they have tapped your wallet become completely indifferent to your needs. In evaluating where your prospective dealer sits on the scale of Buellness, it would be wise to look at several important factors.
Does the dealership present Buells in an up front and accessible fashion on a par with the other brands they carry? If not it may be an indication that they only carry Buell as an afterthought and may not be prepared to work with you toward your Buell needs.
How many Buell owners/riders are working at the dealership? Does your salesman own and ride a Buell? Does the parts counter have someone behind it with hands-on Buell experience? Are there Buell trained and Buell owning techs in the service department and at the service desk? I had the unfortunate experience of being the only Buell riding employee at a nearby dealership. I found that although most employees were not outwardly anti-Buell, their lack of involvement/understanding in Buells limited the distance they were willing to go to in working with Buell customers.
Are Buell Parts and Accessories displayed and marked prominently? Does the dealership stock and display a full line of Buell P&A as well as a substantial number of aftermarket items? Are the prices competitive with both mail order and other dealers, including those of other brands? The display and exhibition of Buell items, hopefully near the Buell bikes, is another indication of a commitment to Buells by the dealership. Having to ask where the Buell items are or getting a shrug of the shoulders from a parts counter person is a bad sign. On pricing, be careful to make sure the dealer is not expecting his Buell customers to pay the same markup that his Harley Davidson clientele have become used to forking out.
The Buell Corporation prefers not to interact directly with Buell riders except on very rare occasions. They fully expect their dealers to be firmly positioned between themselves and those that purchase their products. It doesn’t matter if it is just finding an answer to a question, locating a obscure part or getting a major warranty covered – if the dealer is disinterested, ignorant, or indifferent you will be own your own.
2) The Ability, Inclination, Facility and Tools to do some or all of the basic mechanical work on your Buell.
This is not to say that if you never put a wrench on your bike you are doomed to an ownership disaster. I would offer, though, that the more you know about your own bike's mechanicals the easier your experience will be on your pocketbook and the greater your number of riding hours will be.
With the possible current exception of the fuel injection systems, there really is not any rocket science on the Buells. With a little mechanical aptitude, a moderate set of standard and metric hand tools, weather proof place to work on the bike (I use an old water bed frame with a ramp in my shop), a method for raising the front or rear of the bike (a ratchet strap tied to a ceiling joist) and a service manual you should be able to handle just about everything that comes along including most of the scheduled maintenance items.
The alternative at your dealership will be the possibility of long waits behind an already heavily booked service department appointment list for work at $50 to $60 per hour.
Warranty work will almost always need to handled by the dealer’s service department. However, if an owner is willing to keep meticulous records and receipts, there is no reason the owner should have to rely on the dealership for maintenance work.
3) Access to Information and Options from Outside the Dealership/Buell Network
Although Buell dealers have made a quantum jump in their knowledge of things Buell, there is still much to more the Buell experience than what you will find there. The several Buell exclusive websites, each populated by individuals and personalities of widely varying attitudes and affinities, have vast amounts of information to offer. The websites have become the watering holes for the Buell herd. Most everyone you will find there have a common passion for their Buells and a deep spirit of camaraderie for their fellow Buellers.
In the Buell “Dark Ages,” before the time when the dealers knew anything about Buells and when there was no customer support from Buell Corp., it was these web sites that sustained us until the enlightenment. They are:
Bad Weather Bikers - http://www.badweatherbikers.com/ - An independent board with minimal moderation and sponsorship from several after market suppliers, Buell dealers and Buell.
American Thunderbike Club - http://Americanthunderbike.org/ yearly dues funded club for Buell owners based on the East Coast.
SportTwin - http://www.sporttwin.com/ - A Buell dealership website with topic specific forums.
4) John and Renee at Buell Customer Service
Before I give you their phone number you must promise to treat these wonderful people with the utmost respect and consideration. They are absolute angels in a completely hellish job. They are your ace in the hole; your last ditch hope when nothing else is going right. Your Buell is broken. Your dealer can’t/won’t/doesn’t want to fix it. Who do you call? John and Renee.
I suggest that in all cases you go through your dealer first, allow them to do whatever they can, and then form a three-way partnership between the dealer, Buell Customer Service and yourself to resolve the problem. They can be reached at 414-343-8400
by Don Casto
edit date 27 November, 2003